A severely disabled convicted prisoner who requires round-the-clock treatment has won an injunction preventing the prison service from returning him to jail. Daniel Roque Hall, 30, was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment last July after admitting smuggling 2.5kg of cocaine in his wheelchair back from a holiday in Peru.
He suffers from Friedreich’s ataxia, a degenerative disease that affects co-ordination of the whole body. It causes a heart defect, which requires constant monitoring, and diabetes, and shortens life expectancy: Hall is not expected to live beyond 40.
A former prison governor told the Guardian it would be “virtually impossible” to manage the condition in prison.
On 23 August, Hall was rushed to University College Hospital (UCH) in London and placed on a life support machine when his condition worsened.
A consultant at UCH said Hall’s heart had been “stunned” by his treatment at the prison. Hall’s family said the two constant carers Hall needed were not supplied and he had been denied vital medication and stretching exercises during his time in prison. This had resulted in severe spasms, which affected his heart. They fear the same will happen if he is returned to prison.
Hall’s mother Anne said: “Doctors at UCH say Daniel is more medically frail and his needs are greater than last July. He needs vigilant continuous care, which he received in the community. The seven weeks he spent in Wormwood Scrubs almost cost him his life. Last July, Ataxia UK said Daniel’s three-year jail term amounted to a death sentence. They are right.”
The Guardian was unable to speak to Hall because we are not on his prison’s approved contact list. When prisoners are in a community hospital, prison rules still apply.
He has remained at UCH since August, though not in intensive care. Throughout his stay in hospital, Hall has been guarded around the clock by two, sometimes three, prison officers.
A week ago, the prison service told Hall he would be returned to Wormwood Scrubs in west London on Wednesday. Last Sunday, a protest against a return was held outside the prison.
Late on Tuesday night, Hall’s lawyers obtained a high court injunction preventing his return to prison. His legal team now has seven days before they must return to court to argue he should remain in hospital.
When Hall was sentenced last year, the trial judge accepted he had been manipulated and groomed by drug dealers. Knowing his medical history, the judge sought assurances from the prison service that Hall’s complex needs would be met in jail. The governor of Wormwood Scrubs told the court the prison would provide the 24-hour monitoring Hall required.
John Podmore, former governor of Brixton prison, said on Wednesday: “Managing somebody with chronic, advanced ataxia disease in a prison setting would be virtually impossible without bringing in considerable resources or diverting them from somewhere else, and the pressures on a prison hospital in London are considerable and not conducive to an environment required by someone with such a disability.
“Ironically, severely disabled prisoners can only access appropriate healthcare in prisons offering expensive and high levels of security they do not require.”
A 2011 prisons inspectorate report on the healthcare department of Wormwood Scrubs found “little progress in support of men with disabilities” and expressed concern at the “lack of systematic identification and help for prisoners with disabilities”. Inspectors described the unit where Hall was held as an unsuitable environment for those recovering from physical illness.
A spokesman for UCH saidthe hospital was unable to comment because of patient confidentiality. A prison service spokeswoman said: “We do not comment on individual cases.”